It should go without saying that, after eight days off the bike, it felt good to get out yesterday. I wasn’t sure what I’d be thinking about or how my legs would feel, but it didn’t take long for it all to settle in.

I just drove from Philadelphia to San Diego — my daughter borrowed my car for a couple of months and I flew out to retrieve it. Though I logged a lot of interstate miles, I made sure to get off the freeway for at least a couple stretches of road each day. I drove some state and county roads, and even a few dirt roads used mostly by farmers in the Midwest. I wanted to be places I’ve never been and see things I’d never seen. Mission accomplished. Those stretches of road, off the interstate, were the highlights of my summer.

The landscape of this country has always inspired me. It’s as diverse as the people who’ve inhabited it through the millennia. So when I chose the audiobook 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005), by Charles Mann, I thought it would be the perfect soundtrack as I traversed and viewed this thoroughly modern landscape.

I read 1491 from cover to cover shortly after it was published, and I’ve listened to the updated audiobook twice since. It’s a fascinating account of the Americas prior to the European influence. It dispells, and often times blows out of the water, many conceptions and ideas we have of pre-Columbian Americas. 

When the book was released in 2005, it was reviewed well by book critics, but academics — historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists pushed back. Academia suggested Mann took too many big leaps at once. In the decade and a half since being published, academia has caught up with Mann’s big leaps, and many support his far reaching thesis. 

Mann makes four major arguments in the book and subtly sneaks in two lesser ones toward the end…

  1. That the Americas were settled much longer ago than previously believed. Some estimates, based on archaeological evidence, suggest that human beings walked in the Americas as far back as 30,000 to 35,000 years ago.
  2. The population of the Americas was significantly greater at the time Europeans arrived. Estimates vary, but when they’re ammended, it’s always upward. Many scholars believe that the population of pre-Colombian Americas was between 80 million and 100 million.
  3. That pre-Columbian civilizations were greater, more complex, and interacted with one-another more than previously believed. 
  4. That American natives manipulated the land and wildlife to such a degree that they not only influenced, but created the landscape we know today. Assumptions that we’ve made about everything from bison population, to forests in New England, and the grasslands of the Midwest, are likely out of step with how they came into being. 

Two lesser arguments that Mann makes…

  1. The men who forged the documents that shaped our lives — the Founders, may have been influenced as much in matters of personal liberty, limited government, and personal responsibility by the natives they interacted with on a regular basis — more so even, than the enlightenment all-stars of France at the time. 
  2. That had the natives not succumb so quickly and in such large number to the diseases the Europeans gifted them, Europeans would have been no match for the natives in warfare and claiming eminent domain. At best, Europeans may have played a much smaller role in the advancement of the nation and exploitation of its resources. Mann presents evidence, from New England all the way to the Peru, that on an even playing field, natives of all varieties were better warriors and more prepared for battle and the Europeans. They lacked only the numbers due to the diseases that cut them down by as much is 85% in the first 150 years. 

As I said, 1491 was the perfect book to accompany me on a trip from the East Coast to Southern California. From the forests of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, through the farms of the upper Midwest, to the great plains and the grasslands, across the Rocky Mountains, and into the desert southwest, 1491 was a great tour guide, providing detail and meaningful lessons in how far we’ve come and how far we fallen — simultaneously.

This is what I think about when I ride — and drive… Jhciacb

It’s back to the bike for me this week. And as much I enjoyed my travels, it’ll be nice to get back into the routine again. Oh, and there’s this from Robert Jon & The Wreck. Enjoy…

(all images taken from an iPhone 11. No color adjustments, and only slight contrast adjustments on a few)

Shit Or Get Off The Blog…

From my Facebook page this morning, Sunday, September 4….

This is the 8th Sunday this year I haven’t posted an essay to my WordPress blog. Prior to 2022, I hadn’t missed a Sunday blog since I began it in 2017. I guess the WordPress blog has become a lesser priority.

The WordPress blog was intended to be a creative outlet for my writing, to share my smartphone photos, and as a platform to express how cycling helps me fight the depression and idiopathic sadness that I live with from day-to-day. I had no intention that it would blow up, get discovered, or be something I could monetize. Mostly it was just a digital postcard to let people know where I am and what I’m up to.

Hosting this page concurrent with that blog, I often wondered why I needed both, and didn’t just focus on one or the other. The short answer is that many subscribers of the blog aren’t on Facebook, and most of my Facebook connections are too lazy or technically illiterate to open a link to the blog 😜. I’m not talking about you though.

Anyway, the main reason I’ve kept the WordPress blog active is for the few friends and family I have that aren’t on Facebook. Facebook, for better or worse, are my people. Christ, I can’t believe I just said that…🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️

So the WordPress blog will remain, but probably be a once, maybe twice a month endeavor. Most Sunday mornings now, I can be found right here — the same place I can be found every other morning ending in the letter “y”.

Of course it would make sense that later today I actually post this on my WordPress blog, so the subscribers there will know to look for me here — which means this won’t be the 8th Sunday in 2022 that I failed to post on the WordPress blog, but anyways…

So if you’re reading this on WordPress today, and you want to read my stuff regularly, please check out my Spoke And Word page on Facebook.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

172 miles
7,600’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
9,700 calories
11 hours 32 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Deacon Blue. Enjoy…!

Exposing Myself…

When I sat down after last night’s ride, to bullet-point the thoughts which most consumed me, I didn’t get too far. You see, some of what I think about I’m afraid to share. After all, I’m someone whose self-worth is supremely correlated with how others view me. And the truth be told, I hold back a lot of what I think about for that reason. For example…

Most people reading this have no idea I’ve been privately studying Islam for a decade, and my interest in it goes back another decade beyond that. That’s not a joke. To date, I’ve completed nearly 30 books on the subject and have been to a local Islamic center a handful of times meeting with their education leader.

My interest hasn’t yet guided me to accept Islam as a faith, and I’m not sure it ever will. I do feel though, connected with it far better than the Judaism I was raised with or the Christianity that surrounds me. Whether I accept Islam into my life or not is a story for another day. I can only say that as a blueprint for community living, I’ve not seen a better one, and I’ve looked at most of them — in depth.

Just the thought of sharing that with an audience of dozens frightens me, though it’s been on my mind nearly every ride since I began this page four years ago, and since I began blogging and 2002. The Islamic faith, as a model for community living and how one should conduct one’s self privately, is what I think about as much cycling, fitness, and all the other nonsense that occupies my brain.

That’s as much as I’m going to share for now. Throwing this out there this morning, to people who will fix to strong opinions quickly, feels like jumping out of an airplane. And if you know my story, the last time I jumped out of an airplane, it didn’t go so well, but I did make a full recovery. Still, this morning I’m taking that leap.

We live in an age where we accept a president who says it’s okay to grab a woman by the pussy. We have state legislatures making it more difficult for poor people and people of color to vote. We have elected officials proposing legislation to minimize the rights of gay and transgender people. We have representatives and senators who are willing to make racist and homophobic statements to the cheers of the crowds which finance them. Yet in all of that, I’m afraid to show my true colors. Shame on me. Shame on us all.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This Week By The Numbers…

170 miles

7,300’ climbing

15.0 mph avg

9,700 calories

Seat Time: 11 hours 22 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Praise. Enjoy…!

Community Standards…

I created my first Facebook account in 2006. A friend, familiar with the organization, assured me it was going to be huge. I didn’t use that account much, but as Facebook grew in popularity and more people I knew were using it, I got increasingly drawn in. This was before the era of the smartphone and my desktop computer was my exclusive porthole into social media. I’d check Facebook for a few minutes each morning, again in the evening, and maybe in the middle of the day if I wasn’t too busy. It was far from being the center of my world. 

The evolution of my Facebook use was subtle, but increased over time. The more connections I made, the more time I spent using the platform. And as evolutions go, I barely noticed what was happening. With the advent of the smartphone and the Facebook app in 2008, the social network left my desktop for my hip pocket. On a dime, I went from checking it 2 to 3 times a day, to checking it in the grocery line, at traffic lights, waiting for a waitress to take my order, and anytime I wasn’t otherwise engaged — including airport bathrooms. It became central to my daily experience. 

As my use increased, I found value in the platform — I’m a people person and Facebook is made out of people. I’m also an introvert with a tendency toward social awkwardness, so it allowed me to fulfill my need for human connections, but from a safe distance. I enjoyed connecting with people over music, fitness, and art. I also participated in my share of sophomoric hijinks, including homemade videos of my talking dog.  

Between 2010 and 2015, as the tenor the nation began to sour, Facebook became more political, more volatile, and increasingly divided. Finger-pointing, abusive language, and vitriol became the the currency of exchange for many. As this manifest, it became a badge of honor for some to be sent to Facebook jail, to have their accounts suspended, or like my brother in 2020, banned from Facebook for life. During this time, many left the platform of their own accord due to the negativity. 

As the platform grew more negative, I leaned in with a more positive presence. I shared original stories, original photographs, and kept my interactions as positive as possible, though I still participated in some sophomoric hijinks — because in a nation absent of decorum and struggling to stand up straight, I never lost my sense of humor.

As interactions grew more negative, the call increased from governments, action groups, and parents for Facebook to minimize threats, abusive language, and people who abuse the platform. Facebook responded with the use of artificial intelligence (bots and algorithms) to determine who was violating their “community standards”. Those in violation would have their use limited or suspended, with little recourse on the part of the offender. As this continued, inconsistencies began to surface in how Facebook justice was administered…

Recently a woman photographed a dramatic image — her own shadow against low gray clouds. The image was magnificent and made it around the internet in a matter of days. When a friend shared it on Facebook last week, I made the comment…

“Witchcraft. Burn her…!“

Within 48-hours I was notified by Facebook my comment went against community standards and my account had been suspended for 3-days. This came just two weeks after a similar suspension for using the word “execute“ in a proper sentence. Keep in mind, no human being was a part of that judicial process. Justice was administered by artificial intelligence. The algorithm did give me the opportunity to appeal my sentence, but made clear the appeals process could take several weeks — for a 3-day suspension. 

With nearly 3-billion accounts, I understand why Facebook could never staff or pay enough humans to take on a task that bots and algorithms can do far more efficiently. I also understand that they’re working to minimize kinks in the process so innocent people don’t have their accounts suspended for using the word “execute” in a proper sentence. In truth, I really don’t have an issue with my account being suspended for those minimal infractions. 

The issue I have with Facebook though, is its repeated use of the term “community standards”. This is a company who’s representative have a lied under oath before the US Congress. It’s a company which has manipulated its algorithms in ways to make the platform more addictive for everyone, including and especially children. It’s gathered information for the benefit of selling it without user knowledge. It eavesdrops as a means of targeting and redirecting its advertisers. It has knowingly created divisions among users because those divisions have been proven, by Facebook‘s own staff, to keep users engaged longer and more frequently. 

In short, Facebook is a manipulative, devious, and self-serving enterprise which puts marketshare and profit ahead of all other concerns — including the mental health of children. I don’t need them preaching community standards when a part of their mission is tearing communities apart on behalf of marketshare and profits. Nearly all of what I’ve shared on Facebook, going back a generation now, has been positive in nature. I’m one of the good ones — one of the people who tries each day to make the experience positive, not just for me, but for those I interact with. 

What Facebook bots and algorithms don’t take into consideration when they suspend or ban users like me, is that they’re also separating families and friendships. I’m grateful each week I can connect with friends and family around the world. That experience has helped me during difficult times. Facebook is also a business tool for me — I use it to promote my small business, and always in a positive way. My Spoke And Word Page on Facebook has been the best therapy I’ve ever had for dealing with my mental health issues.

In a world where it’s reinforced daily that we shouldn’t take things personally, I take this very personally — I’m hardwired that way. I’ve been one of Facebook‘s biggest fans. Despite their corporate nonsense, the miracle of global interconnection can’t be overstated. The influence on my life, from people I’ve connected with via that medium, has made me a more rounded person and broadened my mind in ways I could’ve never imagined to 2005.

Being suspended for an innocuous comment negatively impacted my livelihood, my personal relationships, and even my mental health. I’ll accept this, my second 3-day suspension, and I’ll likely return to my Facebook routine when it expires — maybe. That said, if I find myself suspended for an innocent comment again, I’ll walk away and never look back, even at the expense of family connections, my business, and my mental health.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This Week By The Numbers…

153 miles

6,100’ climbing

15.1 mph avg

8,700 calories

Seat Time: 10 hours 12 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Leo Sayer. Enjoy…!

Four Wheels, Not Two…

Unfortunately I haven’t spent too much time on bikes this summer — not as much as I would’ve liked to. On the flipside, I’ve traveled more this summer than in the last 10-years combined.

Just closing out a 3000-mile road trip from San Diego to Mystic Connecticut. Going to do the same trip in reverse in about five weeks, and then hunker down hard to work through the winter — and to ride my ass off. 

No bicycle pictures this week, but here are some nuggets from the road this past week. All photos taken with an iPhone 11, no color adjustments, with only small light and contrast adjustments. In the comments, please let me know your favorites and why, and I’ll let you know where it was taken.

This is what I think about when I don’t ride… Jhciacb 

Loving Lemoyne…

Not a lot of bicycling got done this week, though I did spend an evening riding around San Diego. I traveled to western Nebraska to visit my brother and some friends. It says a lot that I live in San Diego and enjoy spending time in Nebraska. Rather than the blog this week, I’m just going to leave a few photos of some beautiful countryside in the southwest corner of the state, not far from the Colorado border. 

I’ll be back next week with something more substantive, probably. In the meantime, I hope this helps you appreciate that Nebraska isn’t just an ocean of cornfields with a large football stadium on the eastern side. I love my brother and I love Lemoyne — and I miss them already.

The last series are some photos I took in San Diego, the night before my flight. All photos were taken with an iPhone 11, with no color adjustments. Some have slight contrast and brightness adjustments. Enjoy.

Comments are closed this week.


Shedding Meat…

Last month was the 48th anniversary of my first visit to a weight room. I still remember the 45-pound barbell falling to my chest — my muscles too weak to do much about it. I somehow managed to extended my arms and return the bar to the top position. The man spotting me was Officer Ray Bingham of the Denver Police Department. He was part of a program to help delinquent kids like me learn to lift weights. My parents thought it might be a better outlet than vandalizing neighborhood mailboxes and cars — something I excelled at as a 12-year old. 

Bingham told me to lower the bar again which I did, but it didn’t go much better the 2nd time around. Once again I returned it to the top position — my right arm doing most of the work. In addition to the bench presses, we did some leg extensions that day, some lat-pulldowns, and sit-ups. I was so sore the next day I couldn’t go to diving practice. With that soreness though, came a sense of purpose I’d not previously known. 

I’d spend the next 48-years lifting weights for an hour per day, nearly every day. I built my entire life around lifting weights and eating to support my workouts. Since pre-adolescence, getting the gym and getting enough protein each day have held more real estate in my head than any other ideals. Though I never developed a world-class physique, I’ve always had more meat than most.

This past March, after some 15,000 workouts, I made a decision I would’ve thought unimaginable even six months earlier — the time has come to quit chasing meat. That is, I’ve made the decision to back off on my strength training sessions, and the dietary support of required to gain/maintain muscle mass, and enjoy a more moderate lifestyle — and this time I mean it. 

I make my living teaching people my age and older that they shouldn’t worry about gaining more muscle mass. The focus, I suggest, should be on getting better at using the muscle they already have. Keep it active, keep it strong, not to worry about making more of it. I believe this is a good way to be over the age of 50. Still, when I’ve been in the weight room and as I’ve prepared each meal going back to preadolescence, my mindset has always been about increasing my muscle mass. 

Age though, and the law of diminishing returns have been asserting their will against me. By my early 50s, I possessed every gram of muscle I would ever have. It’s been a gradual decline since. That’s not to say I’m getting weak and frail. I just don’t have the meat I had in my 40s and 50s. And to be clear, I still enter the weight room every day — because being strong is a good problem to have. 

My workouts today are still challenging, but the intensity and the volume have decreased. The workouts are geared more toward everyday strength — the kind of strength that stays with me when I leave the weight room. In the modern age, physical autonomy is a virtue, but seems to be on the decline with many. 

Though I no longer look like an action figure, I do look athletic and that’s going to have to do. Most importantly, my workouts are less stressful these days, and walking into the weight room has been less daunting and less intimidating. Perhaps for the first time in a decade, my workouts fit me like a glove.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

Last week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 157

Climbing: 6,800’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 9,000

Seat Time: 10 hours 26 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Stevie Wonder. Enjoy…

Tour de Palomar…

Over the weekend I took a two-day bike tour to the top of Palomar Mountain — and back. After riding across the Mojave in May, I promised myself I’d do at least one overnight trip each month, and this was my first.

I went with low expectations. I’ve never even been to the top of Palomar in a car, let alone a bike, and didn’t take time to scout the ride. I watched YouTube videos of area cyclists and became aware that this is the climb in San Diego bike culture.

What I couldn’t find, despite using every key search term imaginable, was information about bikepacking on Palomar — riding to the top, but with camping gear like a bicycle tourist. I was surprised and began to question whether this climb was doable with gear.

Some common terms from cyclists who’ve documented their climbs of Palomar not carrying gear included hell, torture, pain, and never again. What would an extra 25-pounds do to my experience…? I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

From my house, it’s just 40-miles to the top — a distance I ride regularly. And most of that ride was easy, with roughly 2000’ of gradual climbing to get to the base of the mountain. The 16-mile ascent though, took me nearly 4-hours. By comparison, the ascent the following morning took just under 30-minutes.

I booked a space at Observatory Campground, just a few miles from the observatory itself. I figured once I got my tent set up, I’d leave my gear, do a little hiking, and take some pictures. A funny thing happened on the way up…

It was the hardest physical challenge of my life. Just-3 miles into the climb, I decided I couldn’t do it — I quit. I took out my phone and called the Lazy H Inn, a country motel just a few miles from where I stopped. I was going to ask if they had a room for the night. Then I thought about my friend Andy, who in support of my ride, ran to the highest point in his community in northern England earlier in the day. I hung up my phone and continued my ride. For 13-miles I just kept repeating Andy‘s name. It was slow going and it was hard, but I wasn’t going to quit. I was also reminded of my friend Tim a few weeks back crossing the Mojave… “We’ll be fine…”

About 3-miles from the summit, my legs began cramping. With my experience in fitness, I knew how to minimize cramps. For the last few miles, I’d ride roughly a half-mile, stop, stretch, do some deep squats, and rest for about 10-minutes. That was the protocol to the top. I finished all my liquids in those last few miles.

When I arrived at the convenience store just beyond the summit, it seemed fitting that the attendant was closing the door as my bike entered the parking lot. I was less than 50-feet away when she flipped the sign in the window to CLOSED. So much for Powerade. When I arrived at my campsite, before setting up my tent or unpacking my gear, I went to the water spigot and drank two bottles and did a little more stretching. The cramps soon subsided. 

The campsite was a fun 5-mile descent from the summit, which felt good after climbing all afternoon. When I reached for my phone to text my love ones I’d made it, there was no service. I asked a fellow camper if he knew where the nearest service might be. He said the closest service was in the parking lot of the convenience store I’d just left. I didn’t want anyone worried about me so I got back on my bike, rode to the convenience store, and sent several texts letting people know I was okay.  

Back at the campsite, I setup my tent and sleeping roll. The other thing I failed to take into consideration, along with a lack of cellular service, was the profound infestation of flies and mosquitoes that have claimed Palomar. I didn’t count mosquito bites, but the fly bites hurt worse. I took caution to keep the door to my tent closed except when entering and leaving. Without bug spray, the tent would be my salvation. 

Of course with no cell service, there was no music, no YouTube, and no movies. Just writing and thinking — two of my favorite things. Since I needed one more frustration, along with the bugs and the lack of Internet to complete the trifecta, the campsite beside me had 6 matching sky blue tents — all filled with pre-teen girls from an area church. So help me God, everyone of them was named Morgan. After getting settled, I was tempted to face Mecca, bow, and pray for a while. I chose to just sit quietly for a moment and give thanks to God instead. 

Exhausted from the afternoon, I took a short hike as the sun was setting, but made it less than a half-mile before I turned around and climbed in my tent for the night. Dinner was two Annie’s vegetarian burritos and a Larry & Larry vegan cookie. From the window of my tent, I watched the moon pass through some pines and decided to turn the light out.

Photos below are from earlier in the week…

The church girls beside me giggled into the night, and the White Trash Family Robinson arrived at the campsite on the opposite side a little after 10pm. They listened to Foreigner and shotgunned beers as they set up camp. When I woke Sunday morning, there were actually three recliners beside their campfire — they simply took their living room for a drive.

At 5am I began stowing my gear. I was on the road by 5:45. Descending Palomar was spectacular. The morning light highlighted the views through every hairpin turn and overlook. From the time I left the summit, I didn’t take a single kick for 16-miles — it was a total freeride. I rode slow through the orchards and groves of the Pauma Valley with a sense of pride from what I’d accomplished. I was home by 10am. 

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll do this again. I’m glad I did it — and glad that I didn’t quit. The ride was the epitome of Type A fun — the kind of fun that’s made up of exhaustion and determination, and doesn’t actually become fun until it’s over. Okay, I’ll probably do it again or something similar, but I’m definitely going to pack lighter.

This is what I think about when I ride it… Jhciacb 

Last week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 171

Climbing: 14,000’

Mph Avg: 12.6

Calories: 13,000

Seat Time: 13 hours 38 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from The Inmates. Enjoy…

On The Adversity Of Others…

At some point during each ride, I find myself contemplating the trials and tragedies of others. Not for amusement, but out of humility. I think about those in my periphery — friends, family, and acquaintances, as well as those I’ve crossed paths with via social media.

As I stand out of my saddle and pedal up steep grades or glide down the other sides hoping to pass cars ahead of me, I chew on the adversity of others more than I think about my own. By comparison, I often think, I don’t even know what adversity is. This the exercise within my exercise — an excellent daily reminder of how blessed my life is.

Completing the adversity of others is a grounding reminder that many I know have interruptions in their own blessings, and that sometimes those interruptions are severe. I love them and I always pray for them.

It’s been a decade since Gretchen died. She was in her late-40s, a client and friend who I occasionally hiked with. One afternoon, while walking across a restaurant floor on her way to the restroom, Gretchen suffered a heart attack. The EMTs revived her, but she passed away the next morning. Only minutes before, she had texted another friend that she was having one of the best days of her life. There hasn’t been a week go by since, that I have not thought about that, at least a little bit.

A few years later, the 13-year-old daughter of another friend passed away suddenly, on her way to a family outing with her parents and two brothers. That loss has crossed my mind a few times a day ever since. Though I never knew Clara, the suddenness of her loss impacted me as much as any.

Several years ago a friend in Colorado allowed a tree to get between she and a fantastic downhill run she was having that day. She spent several weeks in the hospital, suffered multiple broken bones, a short term head injury, and some permanent scarring on the right side of her face. The scarring is minimal, she is skiing again regularly, and she has since finished college. She refers to the scars on her face as “The signature of good fortune“.

Because I ride past his house daily, I think of Dave. He was a client who was complaining about shoulder problems about a few years back. He was concerned our workouts were causing the pain he was having under his upper right arm. After a doctors visit and a couple of referrals, is shoulder pain turned out not to be workout related. The pain was coming from his lymph nodes, the result of lung cancer that he was unaware of. After a couple years of fighting it, the cancer won.

Those are just a few examples of adversities that have touched me, but have clearly touched those connected to them far more. With each passing year there’s always one or two more. At some point, there might be so many adversities that I’ll be able to think of little else.

The joke in my family is this…

I don’t have to get an annual physical. I just get my blood work done when I visit the emergency room each year. Though I do land in the emergency room frequently, I’ve been quite fortunate that nothing putting me there has caused me much difficulty. There have been setbacks, but nothing that approaches the term adversity.

Maybe it’s because I ride by markers each day where cyclists have been struck by cars. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen more than a handful of gurneys being loaded into ambulances driving away from the remains of mangled motorcycles, bikes, and cars. Most likely though, it’s because I know the risks involved with daily cycling, that I think about the adversity of others and the impact it has had on their families and friends.

As much as anything, these daily thoughts remind me of just how good my life is, and how I should strive to protect and appreciate it.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 183

Climbing: 8,100’

Mph Avg: 14.7

Calories: 10,300

Seat Time: 12 hours 26 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Spooky Tooth. Enjoy…

Tour de Mojave…

There’s something about a bicycle — you experience travel at a human scale. You see, smell, hear, and feel your surroundings just like walking or hiking. Cycling takes place though, at a pace where you can actually go somewhere.

Last week my friends Ashley, Tim, and I rode our bikes along Route 66 from Victorville California to Seligman Arizona. We did this over five days. Below are some of the highlights.

Day One: Shuttling The Car…

We met in Seligman Arizona which would be the final destination of our tour. I drove from Fallbrook while Tim and Ashley arrived from Phippsburg Colorado. We spent the night at The Historic Route 66 Motel in Seligman. Our rooms were comfortable, clean, and decorated with plenty of Route 66 shtick. 

After checking into our motel, we walked around Seligman and met a few locals. We also met Pancho, who may have been a ridgeback/bulldog mix. Pancho was both friendly and photogenic. There’s not much in Seligman — just a  crossroads of Route 66 and I-40. It’s s also a staging area for trains. It was charming though, and I’d like to go back and spend a couple nights there sometime. 

We ended the evening with dinner at the Roadkill Café. The food was excellent, and as you’d expect at a restaurant on Route 66, the walls were adorned with remnants of mid-century America, including a Rickenbacker 6-string which Tim couldn’t ignore. 

Day Two: Barstow To Victorville And Back — 52 miles 

The following morning we left Tim and Ashley’s car in Seligman and headed to Victorville in my car with our bikes — but we never made it. Driving west from Seligman we decided to start in Barstow. We took a motel room in Barstow, staged our car, and took a day ride from Barstow to Victorville and back. It was a way to get in a few extra miles and get warmed up for the rest of the week.

A couple things I already knew about the desert, but was reminded of during our ride from Barstow to Victorville and back…

– The desert is hot

– The desert is dirty

– Desert communities which thrived 40 or 50 years ago have been largely abandoned

– People in the desert make cool shit out of junk

– The desert is where meth comes from

In-between the two towns though, the landscape was magnificent. I’m fascinated by desert horizons, shapes, contrasting hues, and where the jagged earth meets the faded blue sky in a beautiful conclusion.

We rode strong and had no issues that day. We stopped 25-miles out of Barstow at The Bottle Forest. We didn’t learn too much about it, but it appears to have been there for a while. Someone has crafted dozens of trees by welding small steel stems to vertical steel poles. The branches are adorned with old glass bottles, electrical line insulators, and antiques such as typewriters, musical instruments, cash registers, and more. There was a young couple having the prom pictures taken there. We thought that was cool.

Day 3: Barstow To Ludlow — 53 miles 

This would be a short day, just 53 miles. We had a slow start out of Barstow. Roughly a mile in we had to make an adjustment to the trailer Tim and Ashley pulled behind their tandem bike. The adjustment took just a couple of minutes, but finding somebody to open the tool cachet at Walmart for the vice-grips we needed took nearly 45-minutes. Every Walmart is a Walmart, but the Walmart in the Barstow is the Walmartiest Walmart in the world. Every stereotype in the book. 

Back on our bikes and just a few miles further down the road there we found ourselves at the front gate of the Marine Logistics Base in Barstow. Apparently Route 66 cuts through the base but civilians aren’t allowed on. They detoured us onto I-40 or a few miles before we could reconnect with Route 66.

From there we had a flat stretch with a tailwind that carried us at 19 mph for roughly 10-miles. We slowed a little from some shallow climbing for 30-miles or so. The riding day ended by descending into Ludlow a little after 1:30pm. 

Temperature along the way was 103°. Riding wasn’t too difficult, but we definitely felt the heat. We stopped a couple of times along the way to take some photographs of railroad car graffiti, the basalt infused Martian landscape, and to drink water under the shade — but there was no shade. 

After checking into our motel, we had lunch at the Ludlow Café. There we met two bicycle tourists, Eric and Alicia. They’re riding from coastal Orange County to Trenton New Jersey. Eric‘s mom passed away last year and he’s delivering some of her ashes to Trenton, where she’s from. It was fun to connect with them. We talked about bikes, routes, and just got acquainted a bit. I wished them well on their endeavor and tried to not let on that I was jealous.

We had a good night sleeping at the motel, and left early the following morning for Needles. 

Day 4: Ludlow To Needles — 110 miles 

This would be our longest stretch 110-miles and coincidentally in 110° heat. We got off to an early start, leaving Ludlow just before sunup. To our surprise, and not too far down the road, was a barricade that stretched the width of the road. 


Our next section of Rout 66 was closed to traffic. Wait, what… 🤷🏼‍♂️ We came to ride Route 66. 

We decided to take our chances and go around the barricade. Within a couple miles there was another barricade — we went around that one also. We just kept heading east, mile after mile, going around intermittent barricades. To that point, the road looked fine and we couldn’t understand why it was closed.

Maybe 10-miles in we began noticing portions of the road were washed out beside each barricade. We passed a half-dozen or so sections where large chunks of the road were washed out. There was always enough pavement though, to cross our bikes over safely. There was one section of road that was completely washed out so we carried our bikes around through the dried wash. 

Long story less long… 

We got to ride a 62-mile stretch of Route 66 with virtually no automobile traffic, except the occasional engineering vehicle in the area to assess the washed out portions of road. We road side-by-side and for much of it, and on the left-hand side of the road. We joked that we were taking the English Route 66. 

I can’t stress enough what a gift that was — 62-miles of the nation’s most historic highway with no automobile traffic. Might have been the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike. I can’t imagine they’ll have the road fixed anytime soon, so I may go back later this summer and ride that stretch again.

The town of Fenner California is little more than a Chevron station with $8.49 per gallon gas. We stopped there to replenish our water bottles, take in some air-conditioning, and eat a little ice cream. There we met up with Eric and Alicia again. We enjoyed a little refrigeration time with them, rehydrating, and slamming calories. I drank four Vitamin Waters in less than 5-minutes and got so chilled that I went outside to warm up again. 

Overall the day rode well. We had a tailwind for much of the day. Most of the climbing was gradual and the heat didn’t get to us until the last 20-miles or so. We stepped into the hotel in Needles tired but not defeated — we had just ridden across the Mojave desert in the peak of the day, and had fun doing it. After checking in we headed straight to the Chinese restaurant across the parking lot. Riding long distances in the desert heat will make you crave strange things. For the last few miles of the day, I just wanted to drink a bottle of blue cheese salad dressing, but settled for vegetables with tofu.

Thinking about our mileage that day, and missing Stroodle, I got to thinking if there’s such a thing as dog mileage — like dog years. I wondered if our 110-mile journey would’ve been more like 200-miles to him. You know, little legs and all. 

Day 5: Needles To Kingman — 63 miles 

We rode only 63-miles from Needles to Kingman, but climbed in excess of 5,000 feet by way of Oatman — some of the steepest climbing I’ve ever done. The temperature was 105°. If I counted correctly, I drank (10) bottles of water or Gatorade that day. 

Oatman is an interesting town, small, touristy, and not much there really. Virtually every shop we walked into, the first words the shopkeeper spoke were…

“Ten-dollar minimum for debit cards…“

Oatman had a half-dozen burros walking around, soliciting food from tourists willing to pay five dollars for a handful of grass pellets. One shopkeeper, assuming we had no idea what we were doing, assured us that we had a difficult climb ahead. We made jokes at his mom’s expense the rest of the day. 

The flipside of climbing through and above Oatman was a fun decent for about 6-miles — just coasting and taking in the scenery.  Because it was a steep climb it was also a steep descent. Those 6-miles were more fun than any amusement park ride I’ve ever been on. 

We did well for most of the day, even through the hard climbing. After our descent though, and a short roadside stop for fluids and food, the heat got the better of me. We had a 10-mile flat stretch into Kingman where I was feeling a little bit nauseous and loopy. At the end of that was a shallow climb and I was toast. 

After checking into the motel, Tim and I jumped into the pool. I confided I was considering staying behind for a day. I was hot and exhausted. Tim understood and supported whatever decision I made. After a swim and an excellent Mexican dinner at La Catrina (highly recommend if you’re ever in Kingman), I decided to push on, which I knew I would. Maybe I just needed to hear myself speak my weakness. Yeah, that’s it.

I kept thinking of the Steven Wright joke…

“Anywhere is walking distance if you’ve got the time…”

So too with the bicycle, and I had the time.

Day 6: Kingman To Seligman — 83 miles

Riding from Kingman to Seligman is uphill most of the way. The climbing wasn’t steep, just slow going. We stopped mid-day on the Hualapai Reservation in Peach Springs Arizona. Lunch was at the Hualapai Lodge. Something about bicycle touring makes every restaurant meal the best meal ever. I ordered a basket of onion rings and began eating them before our waitress set them down. They were the best onion rings I’ve ever had, and the tater-tots I stole from Tim where every bit as good. 

Perhaps an hour out of Kingman we began to see something we hadn’t seen much of during week — trees and brush. And as we gained elevation, the trees and brush increased. That would be a good thing because halfway between Peach Springs and Seligman, the bracket connecting the trailer to Tim and Ashley‘s bike broke and the trailer came loose. 

If this had happened earlier in the week it would have posed a far greater problem. However, we were just a few hours from our final destination. With a car waiting at our motel in Seligman, Tim hid the trailer behind some brush and we continued on. He and Ashley would backtrack and retrieve it after checking into our motel. 

With Tim and Ashley no longer towing their trailer, and with me still hauling my gear, they broke away. I finished the last 25-miles of our trip on my own — which gave me a little time to think about my mom. Mom lived much of her adult life in rural Arizona so it was a perfect place to reflect. Perhaps it was because I was thinking about my mom, or the fact that the trip was almost over, but I suddenly found myself crying as I pedaled into an unforgiving wind. 

The final stretch into Seligman was brutal. Saddle-sore from a week of riding, I couldn’t stay on my seat. I pedaled standing up for the last 15-miles of the trip. As I drew closer to Kingman, the wind was as bad as it was all week. I was done — in every possible way. 

When I arrived in Seligman, Tim and Ashley had already checked into the motel and were in their car ready to retrieve their trailer. I collapsed on the hotel bed for a few minutes, took a shower, I made a few phone calls to let people know I had arrived.  

We had just completed the hardest part of Route 66 to ride by bicycle, and had done so in 100° heat every day. It was the most challenging physical endeavor of my life. At dinner that night, back at the Roadkill Café, we were already talking about our next our next adventure. No conclusions were made, other than deciding it needs to be a few days longer.  

Straight up, Tim is the most durable cyclist I’ve ever met. Nothing bothered him. The sentence Ashley and I heard from him over and over last week was…

“We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine…“

Tim’s reassurance got us through the few tense moments we had. He was a fantastic leader. 

Ashley is recovering from cancer for the second time. I’ll repeat that — for the second time…!  Her final radiation treatment was in March. That’s a level of bravery I’ll never know — to ride a bike across the Mojave on the hottest week of the year while still in recovery. I was humbled by that every day.

For me, I didn’t bring much to the table other than a lot of ‘your mom’ jokes along the way. Every endeavor needs its comic relief and I did my best to do my part.

What’s the point of doing anything, I thought, if I can’t fill my social media feeds with pictures and words from the trip…? Each evening, after we settled into our motels and ate, I’d edit pictures and journal the day behind us. Tim and Ashley journaled the old fashion way, with a pen and notebook. 

I ride a bike roughly 350 days per year. Each morning when I wake up, before I pet my dog or turn on the coffee pot, I ask myself, what’s it going to be today…? Where will I ride and how soon can I get out…?  Waking up in Seligman Thursday morning was the first time in six years I had no desire to get on a bike. The urge will come back though, and I’ll likely have been on a bike before you read this.

Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough…

Adventure isn’t something that just happens. Adventure is a choice — it’s opening one’s self up to vulnerabilities and allowing their creative side to navigate around, through, and beyond them. Adventure might be the purest form of creativity I’ve ever known. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

The Tour By The Numbers…

361 miles

14,000’ climbing

12.5 mph avg

21,300 calories

Seat Time: 31 hours 12 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Link Wray. Enjoy…!